UPDATE (14th July 16:00 BST): Further comment from Buttcoin.org’s founder has been added.
Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer Butterfly Labs stands accused of buying out a blog that criticised its products in order to manage its online reputation.
While numerous companies have been accused of using nefarious tactics to remove or alter reviews on websites such as Amazon, if true, BFL’s action would take whitewashing product criticism to a whole new level.
The claims have been made by the founder of the blog in question, reddit user ‘borderpatrol’, who will only reveal his first name as Evan.
His site, Buttcoin.org, which aims to inject a little humour into the bitcoin world, has been in operation since 2011. According to its founder, Buttcoin.org recently received its millionth visitor.
Kansas-based Butterfly Labs manufactures a range of bitcoin-mining hardware. The firm has been plagued by complaints over the quality of some of its products, alongside frequent and long delays in shipments.
CoinDesk recently broke down the global statistics of complaints about the company received by the US Federal Trade Commission.
Evan claims that Butterfly Labs bought his site anonymously for a five-figure sum, with the deal arranged by a man known as Jeff. Jeff requested that the company be transferred into his daughter’s name, but never mentioned that it was being purchased on BFL’s behalf, according to Evan.
Unhappy about the way the transaction was conducted, the founder said:
“He explained that he wanted to keep the site like ‘The Onion of Bitcoin’, wanted me to keep writing for a minimum of 6 months. […] The guy was going to buy my site and then let me still have control.”
However, as soon as the transaction was complete Evan’s access privileges were revoked. In short, he was locked out.
Soon after, Evan said he noticed that Buttcoin.org’s critical reviews of BFL mining equipment had now been rewritten to compliment the hardware in question – with headlines completely reversed.
He offers an archive of one example to prove the point, with The $22,484.00 Butterfly Labs Mini Rig bitcoin miner is a huge, broken, unstable piece of shit (archived article) now changed to read: The Butterfly Labs Mini Rig is a sexy Bitcoin mining machine (current article).
Several BFL articles were also edited in a similar manner, however articles critical of equipment from other manufacturers have remained in their original form.
Pointing the finger
Evan says his research has led him to believe that ‘Jeff’ is none other than Jeff Ownby, VP of marketing for BFL. He now believes that BFL bought the site in order to whitewash his critical product reviews which appear very high in Google’s ranking for key BFL search terms, adding:
“Buttcoin was ranking between 3-4 for the search term ‘Butterfly Labs’ and ‘Butterfly Labs Review’ and was usually #1 for ‘Butterfly Labs Scam’ and ‘Is Butterfly Labs ligit’ [sic]. It was obvious to me that the purpose of purchasing the site was to simply remove the negative articles that were destroying their search traffic and making them look bad.”
Evan now indicates that the site was sold some months ago, but his reddit post was a response to accusations that he had purposefully changed the articles “to show BFL in a good light”.
He told CoinDesk:
“If I knew it was BFL though I would have rather they bought the site and shut it down rather than change the message.”
CoinDesk has reached out to Butterfly Labs for comment and will update this story as more information arrives.
Image via Buttcoin.org